Justicia pectoralis

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Justicia pectoralis
File:Justicia pectoralis by Scott Zona - 001.jpg
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Asterids
Order: Lamiales
Family: Acanthaceae
Genus: Justicia
Species: J. pectoralis
Binomial name
Justicia pectoralis

Justicia pectoralis is a herb of the Acanthus family (Acanthaceae). This water-willow is widely known as tilo in Latin America. In Haiti it is called chapantye and zeb chapantyè on Dominica and Martinique. Other folk names are carpintero ("carpenter"), té criollo ("Criollo tea"), curia, death-angel, masha-hari, or "piri piri". This species was described by Nikolaus Joseph von Jacquin in 1760, who provided additional data in 1763. A well-marked variety, var. stenophylla, was described by Emery Clarence Leonard in 1958.


Traditional uses

Across its range it is used in folk medicine as a relaxant and general tonic.[citation needed] Additionally it is often used in Ayahuasca, a tea containing the Banisteriopsis caapi vine.


Scientific study indicates that extracts of J. pectoralis as well as the isolated chemical constituents coumarin and umbelliferone possess anti-inflammatory and relaxant effects in animal models.[1][2]

Other uses

As regards other applications, it is noted for its pleasant smell and as a source of coumarin, which it produces in plenty, and which in combination with umbelliferone is responsible for many of its notable properties. It is also admixed to epená (Virola) snuff to make it smell more pleasant. In particular var. stenophylla might also be hallucinogenic in certain preparations; it is known to wajacas (shamans) of the Craós (Krahós, Krahô) tribe in Brazil, who know that variety as mashi-hiri and consider it a potent entheogen, not to be taken by the uninitiated.[2][3] The wajacas (shamans) refer to the leaves of the Justicia pectoralis var. stenophylla as bolek-bena meaning "Leaves of the Angel of Death." Its name likely comes from the fact it has killed three curanderos.[4]


The name "tilo" could be by association with Tilia, the linden trees. These are entirely unrelated eudicots whose flowers have similar relaxant properties. The water-"willows" are not relatives of the true willows either; like the lindens, the latter belong to the rosid branch of the eudicots.


  1. Leal, L. K. A. M.; A. A. G. Ferreira; G. A. Bezerra; F. J. A. Matos; G. S. B. Viana (May 2000). "Antinociceptive, anti-inflammatory and bronchodilator activities of Brazilian medicinal plants containing coumarin: a comparative study". Journal of Ethnopharmacology 70 (2): 151–159. ISSN 0378-8741. PMID 10771205. doi:10.1016/S0378-8741(99)00165-8. Retrieved 2010-06-26. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 Lino, C. S.; M. L. Taveira; G. S. B. Viana; F. J. A. Matos (1997). "Analgesic and antiinflammatory activities of Justicia pectoralis Jacq and its main constituents: coumarin and umbelliferone". Phytotherapy Research 11 (3): 211–215. doi:10.1002/(SICI)1099-1573(199705)11:3<211::AID-PTR72>3.0.CO;2-W. Retrieved 2010-06-26. 
  3. Rodrigues, Eliana; E A Carlini (December 2006). "Plants with possible psychoactive effects used by the Krahô Indians, Brazil". Revista Brasileira De Psiquiatria (São Paulo, Brazil: 1999) 28 (4): 277–282. ISSN 1516-4446. PMID 17242806. doi:10.1590/S1516-44462006005000014. 
  4. Stafford, Peter (1993). Psychedelics Encyclopedia. Ronin Publishing. p. 321. ISBN 0914171518. 

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